Anutin upbeat about letting business travellers return
The country cannot lock itself down to avoid foreign tourists and investors just to keep local transmissions at zero, says Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
"We will either die of the disease or of hunger, so we have to face the challenge," said Mr Anutin, who is also the public health minister.
The country has a strong public health system that can ensure the safety of long-stay tourists as well as short-stay investors or business visitors during the pandemic.
He said the government is confident about adequate supplies of medicine and personal protective equipment, so it is preparing other measures to curb the outbreak, including investments in vaccine research with Thai and international institutes.
"When the first batch of vaccines is successfully developed, I believe Thailand will be among the first countries to benefit," said Mr Anutin.
The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation is researching coronavirus medicines that could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha repeatedly emphasised to state agencies they should hold domestic meetings and seminars in the provinces to generate income for the tourism industry.
"It is too late to wait for international tourists," Mr Anutin said. "The first movers to boost tourism are Thais."
To stimulate the economy through the Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) industry, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is planning to propose to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to allow business travellers to enter the country without a 14-day quarantine in September.
If the CCSA approves the "Special Journey" scheme, tourists in the exhibition segment will be the first group to test the waters, said TCEB president Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya.
Tourists must provide Covid-free certificates issued no more than 72 hours before trips, then undergo a saliva-based Covid-19 test on arrival and stay at Alternative State Quarantine accommodation for 6-8 hours as they wait for the result.
Business travellers have to continue their trips with a trained escort team and equipped with the Mor Chana tracking app at all times, while TCEB will develop its own tracking system by the beginning of 2021.
The agency and the Public Health Ministry will provide safety and hygiene measures to ensure a safe environment for everyone participating in the scheme, such as implementing social distancing practices.
He said the plan might affect locals' sentiment towards international tourists, but state agencies have to do something in order to restart the Mice industry as the country mostly relies on the international market.
"If we can begin the scheme to let business travellers into the country, we can manage the situation and business can move forward," Mr Chiruit said.